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Are you influenced by the “other farmers?”

When you evaluate market research on producer purchasing habits and preferences, “other farmers” are almost always near the top the list of influencers for cropping input selection. In fact, Purdue’s 2013 Large Commercial Producer Survey indicates that other farmers are second only to “local dealer reps” as sources of information.

…these farmers may not necessarily live next door, or even in the same county.

But just who are these influential other farmers? Recent research with our Rural Roots Network reveals that these farmers may not necessarily live next door, or even in the same county.

Farmers of a feather

Large-scale farmers often belong to peer groups that have little resemblance to “traditional” farm communities. This is due to a number of trends that have intersected over the past several years, including:

  • Increasing competition for rental/leased acres—Today, farmers often see their next-door neighbor as a potential competitor in the land rental market. Wild fluctuations driven by commodity price volatility have exacerbated this trend. As one of our Rural Roots members put it, “there is a lot of jealousy, even backstabbing, out there.”
  • Emergence of the “ultra-large-scale farmer”—This is a group that Purdue highlights in their 2013 Survey. They average over 10,000 cropped acres (8,000 for cotton), and share a unique perspective that’s driven by the scale of their operations.
  • Declining cost of travel and communications—More than ever, farmers are travelling in both geographic and virtual space, meeting other producers and maintaining communication with their newfound friends. Cell phones, chat rooms and blogs, and even social networking sites are having a profound impact on who farmers use as reference points.

So—what are the implications?

From a marketing perspective, we need to rethink the direction in which information flows through the rural community. Rather than progressing from the top down (beginning with more “progressive” farmers), it may be about spreading laterally across specific peer groups. This could have huge implications on both the media we use (including social media), and the tone of the messaging.

So, while it may be nothing new for farmers to view “other farmers” as an important source of information when evaluating inputs, practices and technologies, the changing nature of producer-to-producer information sharing is a trend worth watching.